Summer has officially arrived and we welcomed more birds of prey and other migrants. We also saw our first dung beetles rolling their dung balls down the road, sometimes even fighting over a pile of dung. Our first rain arrived when a massive thunder storm with strong winds came raging through the area. The wind was so strong that it even uprooted some big trees with ease. The average maximum temperature for October was 27°C, with 44mm of rain. The area that burned last month seems to be covered with a bright green blanket, as the new grass shoots are pushing through. The animals can’t get enough of this new green grass and it came just at the right time, as the majority of the herbivores are pregnant. Game viewing was just awesome and we can’t complain about what was seen this month. We were so lucky to see two different packs of wild dogs that moved around in our traversing area. The pack of wild dogs that had their den here also came into the area a few times, causing havoc. The six pups are growing up very fast and it makes me so happy to see them being relaxed with the vehicles. They would play around the vehicles, sniffing the tires and sometimes even crawl under the vehicles for a bit of shade.
Our leopard sightings were brilliant, full of excitement and crazy at times. Salayexe, our lovely lady, was very elusive this month, but we did see loads of her tracks all over. She is still expanding her territory into Moya’s and Nsele’s territories. The reason for this new territorial development might be due to the arrival of a new litter of cubs. We will have to keep close tabs on her to see how this story unfolds. Shadow was all over the show and she was seen more often than during last month, which was great. Her two cubs are just too sweet and adorable. One of the cubs is more relaxed with the vehicles than its sibling. This is quite common – one will be very adventurous and the other one very shy. In Shadow’s case, she was the shy and grumpy one while Thandi, her sister, was the adventurous one. With all the cubs, the habituation process is well underway to try and get them as relaxed as possible with the vehicles. Thandi was also seen a lot this past month and she is also looking great and in good shape. Thandi’s two little ones are doing really well and they are getting more relaxed with the vehicles. The cubs are big enough to move around with mom and she now takes them to kills. She will also move their location on a regular basis, to prevent any predators locating her cubs. Kwatile surprised us all when she was seen mating with Mvula and then the next day with Tingana. After she finished mating with these two big males, she went back to her cub and made a kill for him to eat. This shows that time is running out for him before he has to face the African wilderness on his own. Nsele and her two cubs were also seen this month, but not as often as we would like. Nsele’s cubs are still a bit shy, but already much better than when we first saw them. If you keep your distance, they will relax more and come a bit closer, or even move more into the open. The core of Nsele’s territory is to the west of our traversing and because it is private land they do not come into contact with a lot of vehicles. Inkanyeni and her cubs were also seen. This was a welcome treat as she does not come into our area very often. Lamula was a bit under the radar, which is understandable because of the pressure that he gets from Anderson and Tingana. Anderson is looking fantastic and being in the prime of his life, he is a formidable force to reckon with. He has grown a lot in size, but more in confidence and he is much more relaxed with the vehicles than in previous months. Tingana is still his old self as he is always on the move, patrolling his territory while looking for intruders. Tingana is also in excellent condition and in the prime of his life. It will be very interesting to see who will be the top dog between him and Anderson. Mvula was seen quite a few times and once again he ensured that we got wonderful sightings and some stunning pictures.
The lion sightings were exceptionally good this month. We were really spoiled with the Breakaway pride, as they spend a lot of their time in our area. These four ladies are phenomenal hunters and excellent mothers to their cubs. It is just incredible to see that all nine cubs are still alive and well. I can’t wait for the six sub-adult females to join in during the hunts, as this would be a wonderful asset to the pride. The three young “Mohawk” males are looking awesome with small beards on their chests and chins. Unfortunately for them, their fate was sealed the day they were born. One day these three musketeers will have to leave their family and start looking after themselves. The Majingilane male lions also paid us a visit, when they accompanied the Breakaway pride as usual. These four males are still in their prime and it feels like yesterday when they came into the area and defeated the two Mapogo’s. It would be great if they could hold on to their territory for another two years, as this would give their cubs a better chance of survival. As we all know too well, there are always changes unfolding in the African bush, so this will be no exception. Two big male lions of the Matimba coalition were found deep inside the Majingilane territory, feasting on a hippo that was killed by the Breakaway pride. I have never seen them this far west and they looked so full of confidence. To make matters more interesting, these two big boys were scent marking the area. As we sat there watching and enjoying this wonderful sighting, they started calling right next to the vehicle. What an amazing sound to hear! These two big males are really taking expanding-their-territory to a whole new level. They are really looking great and in good condition, but to take on four big males on their own turf can be a dangerous game. We were also spoiled seeing the Nkuhuma pride a few times this month and the one day they were feasting on a big buffalo bull kill. We also saw the Nkuhuma male lion on a different buffalo kill for four days. The Nkuhuma male is looking good and he is really doing well for himself. I did not expect him to be in such good shape at the moment. He has loads of scars on his back and face, which shows that he had a few fights. He is a warrior in the making.
The buffalo sightings are just getting better and better. We had some nice, large herds that moved through our area in search of food and water. The one day we had two different herds of between three and four hundred buffaloes in our traversing area simultaneously. Being bulk grazers, they are spending a lot of their time on the burned sections with the new green shoots. The only downside to this is that such a big herd also tramples the new green shoots. We did not see the big bachelor herds this month, but we did see smaller units instead. We also saw some young and dominant males moving around the watering holes, but the rest might have rejoined the herds that moved through. These young guns are seriously putting on some weight, as it is almost time for them to fight for mating rights. We also saw a lot of old boys, rolling in the mud wallows that were filled by the recent rains.
We were fortunate to have great elephant sightings. We had three massive tuskers that moved around in the area, causing havoc as they moved along. We followed one of the big males around for the entire drive and he uprooted close to six trees that morning! A big male on the trail of a breeding herd containing females in oestrous, will try anything to impress the ladies. When another big male shows up on the scene, these two males might end up fighting over the females. We also had wonderful sightings of the females and their youngsters. Elephants don’t have a specific mating season, but they choose to have babies more during the rainy season, when food is plentiful. Being at the start of the rainy season we are seeing lots of small babies, estimated at only a week or two old. It is so wonderful to see how protective the whole herd is over these small bundles of joy. It is amazing to watch how gentle these giants can be, not stepping on their babies while they are sleeping under their mothers, or standing behind them.
The special sighting this month was when we saw Shadow’s small cubs for the first time. Shadow also had a kill which was a bonus, as this kept the two babies from running away. One of the youngsters is quite relaxed, but the other one still needs a bit of habituation. Shadow, on the other hand, is much more relaxed these days than before she gave birth.
Did you know?
The grey duiker is the only antelope that sometimes eats meat.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report, see you out on game drive soon!